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Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: Workshop

Rooted in Culture Before you Watch

To begin this workshop session, you will tap your prior knowledge and experience and then read current research on teaching culture in foreign language classes.

Reflect on Your Experience

Consider the ways in which you have integrated culture into your lessons, then answer the following questions. You may want to save your answers in order to reflect on them again at the end of the session.

  1. How would you define culture?
  1. What aspects of culture are you most comfortable teaching? How do you typically incorporate culture into your lessons?
  1. What challenges have you faced when exploring culture in the foreign language classroom?
  1. Do you typically use English or the target language to explore cultural topics, information, and insights? Does it vary depending on the discussion? If so, how do you decide which language to use to explore cultural topics?
  1. How does your textbook treat cultural topics? If you do not use a textbook, how do you determine which cultural topics to integrate into your lessons and how you will integrate them?
  1. How do you address any stereotypes that students may have about the target culture?

Examine the Research

Read each of the articles listed below, then answer the following questions.


“Artifacts, Sociofacts, Mentifacts: A Sociocultural Framework” (PDF, 129 K)
This article describes an activity that uses the three interrelated dimensions of culture (artifacts, sociofacts, and mentifacts) to encourage deeper language-culture exploration.

Fantini, Alvino E., and Beatriz C. Fantini. “Artifacts, Sociofacts, Mentifacts: A Sociocultural Framework.” In New Ways in Teaching Culture, edited by Alvino E. Fantini and Beatriz C. Fantini, 57-59. Alexandria, VA: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc., 1995.

“Giving Dimension to Mappaemundi: The Matter of Perspective”
Part 1 (PDF, 842 K) Part 2 (PDF, 853 K) Part 3 (PDF, 666 K)
This article addresses the importance of looking at different perspectives for effective cross-cultural interactions. Note: Many examples presented in this article are written in Spanish. However, you will be able to understand all key ideas even if you do not speak Spanish.

Galloway, Vicki. “Giving Dimension to Mappaemundi: The Matter of Perspective.” In Teaching Cultures of the Hispanic World: Products and Practices in Perspective, edited by Vicki Galloway, 3-38. Mason, OH: Thomson Learning Custom Publishing, 2001.

Reading Questions

  1. What do you think about Galloway’s advice to treat culture as a “theory of relativity” (see p. 9)? How does it compare to your experience teaching cultural topics?
  1. How might you use the observation/interpretation model in your classroom?
  1. Using Bennett’s model (Galloway, p. 10), at what stages would you place yourself in terms of your intercultural sensitivity? Where would you place your students?
  1. Galloway speaks of maps as being “inherently biased” in that they not only attempt to represent the world, but also serve to advance a specific “world view” (p. 6). How might you use the classroom as a way of helping students move beyond limited world views toward having multiple perspectives?
  2. When is a practice considered a “cultural norm”? Why? How do practices and products serve as “signposts” to a culture? What role do such “cultural norms” and “signposts” serve in learning and speaking a foreign language? Give a specific example from your teaching.

Submit your written responses to the Reading Questions.


Submit your written responses to the Reading Questions.